I wonder how this sort of thing ended up in anthologies. Did they just keep manuscripts for people to find after they died? Were Ono and Henjo sitting in bed and saying “this was a good exchange let’s show it off/save it for posterity”? How does this happen?
The first source says “so she sent him this”, i.e. I assume she wrote it down and had a servant deliver the message. And probably his reply was also in written form. So it was written down right from the start, is my guess.
The question is, who kept it afterwards and published it…
Lol maybe the servant took a peak and thought “this is fire! Better hold on to it!”
I wish I had access to a good library because so far I’ve only been able to use blogs as my sources, and while there doesn’t seem to be much resources on Heian poetry in English, there are still some monographs I can’t get my hands on I’m sure this answer is out there. I’ll have to compile a list of such unanswered questions in case I get the chance to go to a proper library in the fall.
This is an English translation which is quite fine but it blunders when it comes to my favourite part: In the German version he says that he softly counted the hexameters onto her back with his fingers, which is an image I really love.
I had trouble making heads or tales of this poem before finding explanations in English tbh.
I can’t find much information worth sharing on Prince Motoyoshi that isn’t already in this book–he was quite a philanderer. I did, however, find more information on the addressee of the poem. It was one Fujiawa no Hoshi ( 藤原豊子), aka Lady Kyōgoku, according to the Gosenshu (951, shortly after his death), the anthology in which the poem originally appears. She was the granddaughter of Fujiawa no Mototsune who I mentioned in my write-up on poem 13. Small world! I feel like getting a handle on the geneologies will really help solidify our knowledge of these poems and their historic contexts, at least in terms of timeline.
I can find a lot of people calling Motoyoshi’s cuckolding of the emperor a scandal, but nothing on whether or not he was punished. Apparantly this poem was written after the scandel broke out. Genji from the Tale of Genji also has an affair with the emperor’s wife but it doesn’t seem to cause the same scandal (in fact, it works out for him well in the end). When scandal does break out for Genji, it’s for sleeping with his brother’s de facto consort. He just moves away from Kyoto before being formally expelled, and is eventually recalled, but I presume an affair with a consort of the emperor would demand much more punishment.
While lazy on my part, again this is done more concisely than I can word it:
The first two lines express the poet’s awareness of having been placed in an untenable position, along with a grim what-have I-got-to-lose sort of attitude (a full syntactic break at the end of the second line signals the nikugire technique). The last three lines complete the overall logic with the poet’s assertion that he will meet the woman despite the heavy price he knows he will have to pay. Miotsukushi is a kakekotoba (pivot word) suggesting the poet’s willingness to sacrifice his reputation for the woman. If it is to be taken as more than just clever wordplay, channel markers must also be seen as somehow sacrificing themselves, so an interpolation has been ventured.
It’s this above sort of analysis that I find most helpful for making sense of poems.
I’m not sure how channel markers sacrifice themselves, however. I found two other possibilities, one MUCH darker. Either the river of his tears would need such a gauge to measure it, or his body （身）could be found at the tide gauge in Naniwa bay if his hope could not be achieved.
A Miotsukushi is a channel marker like this:
Even with the book explaining that, I didn’t get it.
The other reading of this kakekotoba is 身を尽くしても, which means “even if it exhausts my life.”
Presumably because of the scandal the Hoshi was unwilling to meet him again fro fear of further damaging her rep, so I guess this is his attempt to encourage her back.
I think I was just tired and while I was understanding the sentences, I had trouble seeing how they would actually look in reality–maybe I wasn’t trusting my own comprehension of the language? You know what I mean?
so i was thinking, before we jump head first into the next week, if there’s people around that would like to contribute but currently don’t have the time, would it maybe make sense to postpone the rest of the book until a later time when more of us have time to commit to it?
Obviously we’ve lost quite a few people already, at least it seems like that, but for the ones still around, is that an option or does it just generally take too much time?
One thing I understood the past two month is that I will never have the time to contribute, at least not until corona is over (!).
Basically, there are a bunch of stuff (mostly from work) that got (and keep getting) pushed back that I always have something more urgent to do. Plus, my free time is extremely fragmented, so doing anything (non work related) for any extended period of time is almost impossible.
(Case in point, it took me three sittings to type this).
I’m not going to be able to contribute anyway, so I’m fine just moving along. I’m also okay with removing the schedule (making it a “read at your own pace” book club).
Since no one seemed to eagerly jump on the let’s take a break train, here’s my contribution to this week:
22 吹くからに 秋の草木の しをるれば むべ山風を あらしといふらむ (文屋康秀)
While it is unknown when 文屋康秀（ふんやのはすひで）was born or when he died, it is believed that he lived in the second half of the 9th century. In fact, very little is really known and proved about his life.
He was counted among the Six Immortals of Poetry, as well as the Thirty Six Immortals. Six of his poems are part of the Imperial Anthologies, five in the Kokinshuu, and one in Goshuui Wakashuu.
The preface of the Kokinshuu describes him to be “[using his words] skillfully, but [they] do not match the content. His poetry is like a merchant dressed up in elegant clothes.”
He is also said to have had a relationship with Ono no Komachi (poem 9).
His son ふんやのあさひさ wrote poem 37.
I’m going to dump this into Content, although I’m not quite sure if it wouldn’t be happier living in the Grammar/Devices section. Anyway, the central idea of the poem is that when you take the kanji for wind 風 and the Kanji for mountain 山, combined into one neat little kanji, it becomes storm 嵐. If they kanji were separate, but read vertically in the same order as they sit in 嵐 we would get 山風（やまかぜ）, the word still centred around wind, aka could still be interpreted as a storm.
What I personally find most interesting in this poem is the fact that the poet talks about the kanji/radical composition of the kanji for ‘storm’ (嵐), but in the original version of the poem (which I believe sits at the bottom on the page next to the poet bio) he decided to omit said kanji in favour of its hiragana version. あらす or, in this case あらし, also means ‘to ravage’ or ‘to destroy’, ‘ravaging’ or ‘destroying’. Therefore, あらし becomes Kakekotoba, even though the poem centres around its kanji composition.
During the Six Dynasties period (220-589) kanji and word games were quite popular in China. This shifted over to Japan through the authoritative anthology of Chinese Literature, the Wenxuan (or Monzen in Japanese), which was required reading for Japanese aristocracy during the Heian period. However, it had lost its importance and appeal by the time the Hyakunin Isshu was curated. By that point, the expectation was for a poet to be serious, rather than witty and playful, which might be the reason this poem is not counted among the most popular ones.
I really liked this week’s poems, especially 22. I think the playfulness of 22 is a refreshing change of pace, which I guess makes sense in light of what Kyayna said about that not really being the style at the time. I also love this little bit of dialogue in the 解釈:
Takeshi: Were these two (Yasuhide and Ono no Komachi) boyfriend and girlfriend?
Mister Kageyama: Something like that.
Same, I immediately liked 22 precisely because of what made it so unpopular at the time.
exactly, yes. Sorry, should have specified
That being said, I don’t think I much liked the rest of this week’s selection in comparison. Not quite sure why, although it’s probably partially because I suddenly got super busy and just didn’t have the time to properly sit down with them.
Yeah that happened to me last week. This week was much better for me in getting into the “okay, I’m going to wind down now and just go through as much Heian poetry as feels good” mode and it suited me better.
In an unrelated vein for the rest of the thread, I found it a very neat observation that the majority of the haiku in the collection are about autumn. I wonder if that is the compiler’s prejudice, or typical of the era. It seems like it would be an easy thing to make a program that could get statistics to compare, using a digital kigo dictionary and digital archives of other major anthologies from Japanese history. In fact, I’d be surprised if somebody hasn’t already done so. Does anyone know what the major academic search engines in Japanese are (like EBSCO host or JSTOR are for English), or maybe have a friend who went to university in Japan whom they could ask?
GOSH I WISH I KNEW THE SLIGHTEST THING ABOUT CODING
But… JSTOR is a digital library, not a search engine?
As for search engines, I’ve only heard of google scholar in Japan (I’ve been in academia here for more than a decade, but I’m just one data point anyway).
As for a digital library, there’s j-stage.